Friday, September 23, 2011

DC 1970's Retroactive Comics

I picked up a couple of DC 1970's Retroactive comics awhile back over at The Fantasy Shop. I asked the salesclerk working there if it had been perused, and they said they hadn't because of a general disdain for the art. Like my brother said, there is no accounting for taste, mine included, and the great thing about the wide world of comics is that there is something for everybody. I've been getting into some of the older comics since I got back into reading them a year ago, particularly the 60's & 70's stuff, but also 80's & 90's.  I  like new comics as well- they look fantastic, and the dialogue is certainly updated. Reading the older stuff has filled me in on so much I missed, and I'm genuinely interested in the origins of these characters. The art of each of the past eras also has it's charm, paving the way to the future pencillers, inkers & digital colorists of today. I find the evolution fascinating, standing here on the verge of 2012.  Additionally, as a toy collector I'm curious about the stories behind all those action figures! Fun!

First thing's first: I absolutely LOVE the vintage title graphics on both of these covers- they look great! The first half of the Green Lantern Retroactive 1970's one-shot features a story by Denny O'Neil and art by Mike Grell, and the last half a reprint of a 1970's story by O'Neil and art by the legendary Neal Adams. Both tales feature Green Arrow as well, longtime crime fighting partner of Hal Jordan. While the new art had the slickness associated with updated computer technology utilized in contemporary illustration, I don't think the pencilling beat the exceptional fluidity of Adams figure drawing, nor his perspective drawing skills. In the first half, both heroes are confronted with elements of their past: Hal Jordan discovers a shipwrecked alien from the same klatch as Abin Sur, and Oliver Queen must hunt down a disturbed archery protégé from his days at the Monastery.

 The 1970's half of the book finds our heroes disillusioned with the unpunishable crimes of a Star City slumlord, forcing them to think outside the box in order to bring him down. The epilogue shows Green Arrow pleading the case of his partner before the Guardians, angered by the Green Lantern's insubordination of leaving his post to solve the case earlier. The social consciousness of the times shows in Oliver Queen's speech about an America gone wrong, peacemakers JFK and Martin Luther King fallen due to our "moral cancer", and his indignation of the Guardians interference in human affairs. It comes off somewhat preachy against contemporary vernacular, but times were changing after the initial Civil Rights movement. It was what it was, and reflected the times and probably some of the disillusionment felt in the 70's.

I liked Tom Mandrake's work since I saw it in the 2nd volume of Martian Manhunter from '99, which I discovered only in the last year. Len Wein wrote both the stories in this Batman Retroactive 1970's one-shot, the newer first half, and the second in the 70's. In the first, "Terror Times Three", the suspiciously well equipped "Terrible Trio" frustrate Batman's capture efforts until lured to a Wayne Foundation event. There a startling discovery about the identity of one of the bandit's inside connection to Bruce Wayne, and their involvement with a past love of Bruce Wayne as well.

The classic 70's tale "Dark Messenger of Mercy" reprinted in the last half is a good, old fashioned detective story about a mysterious "gold coin" killer euthanizing the homeless of Gotham's lower west side. The irony of the criminal's motivation is exposed upon the discovery of his family ties. John Calnan & Dick Giordano handled the art in a professionally apt manner, but it didn't blow my mind. But hey- I have to respect any artist cranking out a book every month like these comic book artists do. That is a special skill that takes unique & intense talent, far removed in many ways from making a single fine art painting, and has to be recognized & appreciated on at least a basic level. 
More Later- Make it FUN!


  1. I feel the same way SDT.I like to know about a character before picking up his/her action figure.Comics are everything the cartoons on T.V. aren't.

  2. Thanks - I was curious about these. I'm going to pick some up when I hit the shop tomorrow.